Reduce,Reuse, but forget Recycling!

Back on July 6th, I wrote a letter to Dr. David Suzuki about my opinions on recycling.(here is the link.). I just got the response!

I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t the one to respond, but I really didn’t think I would get ANY response. 636px-recycle001svgHere is the e-mail word for word, for your enjoyment!

Hi [larrinski],

Looks like we are on the same page. The Foundation supports reducing and reusing most strongly, and recycling as a lesser alternative for the reasons you outlined below (transportation costs and emissions, chemical leaching…). Certainly, there are better recycling operations than others, but generally we are aiming for a society that is not a consumer/throw away one, but one that demands producers to consider product lifecycles (for more, google “cradle to grave or cradle to cradle lifecycle”) and resourcefully and creatively reuses the goods it has. For more on this, please see the Nature Challenge website ( to learn more about other ways to reduce and reuse.

Thanks for writing and sharing your efforts and concerns.

Rebecca Kinakin

Sustainability Planning Coordinator

David Suzuki Foundation

I have added a link to the wikipedia article on “cradle to grave or cradle to cradle lifecycle” that Rebecca talks about.

So, do you still not believe me that recycling is not all it is cracked up to be? I should explain that there is some recycling that does seem to be better than others. Instead of going over it all, here is the Penn and Teller video for you again. Spread the word!


Letter to David Suzuki


The David Suzuki foundation wrote me back. 🙂 Here is the letter, and their agreement that recycling is not all that it’s cracked up to be…


I recently wrote a letter to a Canadian icon. Dr. David Suzuki. If and when he responds, I will post his answers. In the meantime, keep checking out the site for new content, and leave comments!

Hello Dr. Suzuki,

I understand that you probably are quite busy, and one of your staff will probably answer my email(if at all, as this topic may be controversial). But I thought that since I have had some problems understanding the benefits of recycling, I would ask a major Canadian environmental scientist, and one so highly looked upon here in Canada…

Recently I have been doing some online research about the benefits of reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling. I have been concerned by some of my results so far. There seems to be a great benefit of reducing packaging, and waste in general. Composting has a positive benefit for my garden for instance. Buying items with little or no packaging, or packaging that can biodegrade seems good as well. Then, reusing items again and again eliminates the need to make additional packaging, bags, bottles, etc…We use old torn shirts and socks as rags. We reuse beer and pop bottles for various purposes(including making beer!). We try and use all our paper in the compost as well…

But recycling seems to be really bad for the environment. Here, on Vancouver Island, we have strong recycling programs. I originally was quite proud of this fact. But I got to wondering where all my recycling was going. It seems that once it is picked up at the curb by another truck(bad carbon footprint), and taken to a sorting station to be sorted by people on specially made equipment(bad as well), it is then piled onto ships using many trucks, backhoes, cranes etc… The material is shipped on huge tankers to another country to be recycled(really bad for the environment). I understand that up to 40% of the material is just burned which we know to be bad. As well, the chemicals needed to bleach,clean, and make ready the recycled items are quite bad as well. Then once the material is in a state considered good for reuse, new products are made. Once made(mostly in China) these items are then shipped back to North America on huge tankers and wrapped up in packaging for sale. The ‘cycle’ in recycle seems to be the repeated use of chemicals, shipping, and packaging over and over again…

I notice on your foundation site that the 6 things you can do right now to help the environment doesn’t even mention recycling, where as not long ago that was the major focus of the environmental movement.

This gets to my questions… What is your opinion on recycling? Is there any movement in place to make recycling a more environmentally friendly process? In your opinion, is it better to not recycle certain items, and are there any materials that are good to recycle(glass, aluminum)? Is it better to put our current waste in modern landfills, and just try to reduce our future packaging and reuse items the best we can? Should we ban plastics in packaging for instance..

I have to say that some of my research was done on the ever inaccurate internet, which can give you any answer you are looking for… Whether right or wrong…But I have been a university science student, and normally am able to weed through the crap(pun intended).

Thank you for your time, and keep up the good work and keeping environmentalism in the public eye.

Best regards from Vancouver Island.